Customers of an Asian market in California’s San Gabriel Valley were surprised earlier this week when a new meat had become available for purchase.

Whole, frozen raccoons had ended up being placed among the store’s other food items, which prompted Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials to investigate earlier this week. The department’s contention wasn’t that the raccoons were actually being sold in the first place, but whether they’d been sold illegally.

From the San Jose Mercury-News:

Raccoon meat is considered “game animal” under the California Health and Safety Code and could be sold “as long as it is from an approved source and is not a species of wildlife that is listed as an endangered and threatened animal,” according to a statement from the county department’s Environmental Health Division.

“We’re trying to find out where the raccoons came from,” said Janice Mackey, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is assisting the county in its investigation.

Raccoons can only be sold at markets as food if the animals came from a licensed trapper. Californian trappers can go one of two ways once they catch their prey: release them back into the wild or “dispatch it with a firearm,” which is exactly what it sounds like.

haha

A few shop owners and managers spoke with the Mercury-News for the story, and one, Andy Lin, a manager at Hawaii Supermarket in nearby San Gabriel, mentioned that his store had recently started offering raccoon to see how it would sell. While the article notes the meat has sold poorly, providing it isn’t without justification.

Exotic Meat Market owner Anshu Pathak said that while it may seem strange to sell raccoons to the public, raccoon meat is considered a delicacy to some.

“People born in the south – Louisiana and South Carolina – and Asia all enjoy it because they know how to cook it,” said Pathak, who runs a farm in Perris and a retail store in Las Vegas, Nevada. “It is a delicacy for those guys but not for California people.”

The San Gabriel Valley in particular is known for its Asian-American population, which this insightful KCET article points out is “the largest majority Latina/o and Asian American region in the U.S.”

fish

Perhaps dining on raccoon won’t become a prevalent trend among the Southern Californian food scene, but when skinned and cleaned properly, don’t forget: raccoon actually tastes pretty damn good.

[via San Jose Mercury-News]